Updated: May 16, 2020
Most of my clothes growing up were from garage sales or Goodwill. It makes sense to not spend a lot of money on kid's clothes when they might only wear it once before they grow out of or ruin it. Because, let's face it, kids grow fast and they love to get dirty.
I learned two things from being raised this way:
1. Buying used is good
2. Buying cheap is good
And now I'm learning that only one of these things are true.
I don't remember when, exactly, I came across Jessica Rose Williams' Instagram account. It was some time over a year ago. I loved the creativity in her photography and the calm in her images. I loved how she wrote real things in her captions and was working and changing to become a better person.
Some words that I might use to describe Jessica and her style are minimal, cozy (or as she spells it: cosy), practical, vegetarian/vegan, and warm. She's a writer at heart (like me!), has a beautifully dedicated capsule wardrobe, and lives in a lovely cottage in the English countryside. Her animal companions are Dolly (dog), Oscar (horse), and Teddy (horse).
Jessica is a believer in minimalism and buying ethically sourced clothing. She hasn't always been, though, and has worked hard to get to a point where her wardrobe consists solely of ethically made clothes. I won't share her entire story here, you can go hear/read it yourself.
She was one of the first people that made me really begin to consider where my clothes (and everything else that I buy or consume) actually come from. To be honest, before that I didn't care one whit about it as long as I was getting a good deal.
I LOVE coupons and sales, but perhaps saving money isn't the most important thing.
Her comments and criticism on the fashion industry made me really start to consider the value of the things I'm wearing. Most of my new, store-bought clothes cost me somewhere between $5-$15 a peice, not counting shoes or outerwear. I mostly shop(ped) at Kohl's with coupons.
But how much of that $10 shirt went to the CEO of Kohl's? How much went to the designer/celebrity model? How much went to the employees of Kohl's retail stores? How much went to cover materials? How much went to the women who made my shirt in the factories of a third-world country?
It's that last question that makes me stop and think.
The True Cost is a movie on my watch list that was recommended by Jessica Rose Williams and Sarah Therese, a Youtuber mom and another advocate for ethically-made clothing. While I have yet to see the film, the trailer alone is a heart wrenching and informative behind-the-scenes to my $10 shirt.
Sarah Therese watched The True Cost on Canadian Netflix and mentioned it in one of her videos. When I went to find it, I discovered that US Netflix doesn't offer it. It feels a little intentional. We are, after all, such a consumerist nation.
Why should we have such easy access to the truth behind our cheaply made and quickly bought playthings?
So while I haven't watched it yet, I'm being honest with myself that the amount going to the hard-working person who stitched together my shirt is not what it should be. Which means I need to change the way I think about what, where, and how I buy.
While Sarah does buy a lot of her clothes new, she does so from ethical, fair-trade companies. She also frequents her local thrift shop and loves to share her finds. She thrills in discovering unique clothing for both her and her kiddos and styles them in such a fun, playful way that I don't know how everyone is not flocking to their closest used clothes store.
Sarah shops at stores that specifically benefit women and moms (or as she says it: "mamas") around the world, which I think is pretty fantastic. Because I'm realizing that if I'm going to spend money on something, I want the person who put their blood, sweat, and tears into it to get a good share of that money.
So over the past 6 months I've been reevaluating my clothing purchases.
To be honest, thinking about where most clothes come from has taken the fun out of shopping. On the flipside, shopping less and buying more intentionally has meant I'm enjoying the clothes I buy more.
Like the 2 pairs of comfy and actually good-fitting jeans that I found at the thrift store last month for less than $30. Like the linen cloth I bought so I could sew a simple summer robe for myself that would fit my personal style and needs.
My budget has appreciated the break from temptation, and our small shared closet appreciates that I'm not adding more to it's already-packed insides. I've also found that, by not constantly adding more options, I'm finding it easier to pick out clothes for each day and occasion where I became stressed and overwhelmed before.
This doesn't mean I've curated a beautiful, minimalist capsule wardrobe. It does mean that I feel better about the choices I've made and their effect on the world around me.
I plan to keep wearing the same clothes I own until I can't wear them any longer. Or at least until I realize they aren't getting used and are only taking up space in our tiny closet (in which case they'll be donated to one of my favorite thrift stores).
If I do need to buy something that I'm missing or to replace an old item, my goal for the future is to find it used or buy new from a reliable source, one that is fair trade and treats its employees (because factory workers should be called that) the way they deserve.
That means saying no to so many cute graphic tees, fun socks, and "too-good-to-be-true" holiday deals. But it also means feeling good about the money I spend and discovering a lot of cool brands and companies that have the interests of real people in mind. (Jessica Rose Williams has a great list of some of these companies on her blog.)
It means that sometimes I might be spending more, but I'm gladly spending better.
If you'd like to check out Jessica's blog it is https://www.jessicarosewilliams.com/ and her Instagram tag is @jessicarosewilliams (https://www.instagram.com/jessicarosewilliams/). She was actually a source of inspiration for me in starting this blog and writing more.
If you'd like to check out Sarah's Youtube account it is https://www.youtube.com/user/SarahHeartsSparkle and her Instagram tag is @sarahtheresev (https://www.instagram.com/sarahtheresev/). She is a regular source of encouragement for me in following my dreams and standing up for my beliefs.